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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
PHASE THE SECOND - MAIDEN NO MORE
Tess remains with Alec at Trantridge for a few weeks and then packs her things and leaves for her home at Marlott. Alec follows her and questions her about her sudden decision of leaving. She refuses to go back and to take his material help, and he sees no point in coaxing her. Although her contempt for Alec remains, Tess no longer fears him and accepts a ride with him for a few miles. When they part, Alex tells Tess to call him if she ever needs him.
At home, Tess's parents, though sad at her misfortune, take her into their fold. Joan, however, is terribly disappointed that Tess has lost a golden opportunity of marrying into the rich D'Urberville family. Tess is unsuccessful in explaining to her mother that marriage was never on Alec's mind. Tess also accuses her mother of hiding the dangers of life from her, making her ill prepared to cope with the likes of Alec.
Although this chapter does not describe the last few weeks of Tess's life, it is assumed that she has been with Alec, tolerating his passionate advances. She soon has enough and leaves for home, filled with shame and remorse for her behavior. She knows she does not love Alec, and he has made no offer of marriage. When Alec realizes she has left, however, he does catch up to her and asks her to return. When she refuses, he offers material help, which she also refuses. Although she is a changed woman in many ways at this point in the novel, she is still proud and in control. Alec is impressed with her lofty thinking, and Hardy foreshadows that Alec will again be attracted to it in the future.
On her way home, Tess by chance, meets a sign painter, who reappears several times in the novel. He is a symbol of morality, and his signs are warnings to sinners. He has just finished painting a sign that says, "THY DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH NOT". When Tess sees these words, standing out in vermilion paint against the pale background of the landscape, she feels even guiltier about what has happened to her. Her consolation that her sin was not of her own seeking serves as a weak defense against the accusation on the sign.
At home, the honest Tess explains all of the events at Trantridge to her mother. Joan's reaction to Tess's calamity is surprising. In a truly rustic way of thinking, her mother considers what has happened to be Tess's destiny and believes that there was God's will in it. She is also disappointed that Tess has missed out on the opportunity to marry a wealthy man.
It is important to notice that the Tess who arrives home in Marlott is very different from the Tess who left there four months earlier. Because of her stay in Trantridge, she is no longer a pure and simple country girl. She knows much more about life; as a result, her views have totally changed. Although she blames herself for what has happened with Alec, she also blames her mother, accusing her of withholding information about the dangers of life from her daughter. Hardy, however, still makes it clear that Tess was really an innocent who was misled by a sinister force; he also makes it clear that Tess's current troubles are caused by the shame and guilt she feels.
At first, when friends call on her in Marlott, Tess feels more cheerful; but before long she is the talk of the village. They whisper behind her back and cause her to think about her future, which seems like "a long and stony highway which she must tread, without aid, and with little sympathy." To avoid their words and stares, she only goes out at night, hoping not to be seen and discussed. Her only relief is her work in the fields; but even as she works, Tess is full of remorse and considers herself a "Figure of Guilt".
Tess becomes the talk of the village. The village folk talk about the gentleman who fell in love with her and whisper to each other about the gifts she received from him. It is sad to notice, however, that no one seems to genuinely sympathize with her, not her mother or her friends. As a result, her grief and remorse grow greater until she feels she is a symbol of guilt.